Lying to win: agenda, ego and insecurity in the GOP


By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Donald Trump) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump at a midterm campaign rally, Phoenix, AZ, October 19, 2018. (photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons)

Games, when we played them as children, had a singular agenda: WIN! Otherwise, what was the point – fun? Fun was just a side benefit, which there was always a lot more of when you got to yell, “I WIN!”

I was terrible at games when I was a kid. When I say “terrible,” I mean it felt like I lost a lot. A whole lot. When one gets tired of losing, you kind of have to decide whether you are okay with continuing to be a masochist for the appearance of being a good sport or choose to walk away and find something that feels like less of a frustrating mountain of wasted time.

There is, of course, a third way to go to try to achieve success – cheating, in the form of lying.

“I did too catch the ball,” “My foot was on the base,” and, “I said the answer that’s on the card. You must have misheard me,” pushed like a strident lawyer trying to keep his client off death row, are some of the rare examples where I tried that tac. As I recall, I think it only worked once. The kicker was, instead of feeling better, I felt guilty. I was, after all, raised by good people.

The agenda in politics is the platform, the policy planks that make up a candidate’s campaign or the pillars of a proposed law. A necessary component of that agenda is the same as when we played games as kids – to win. Otherwise, it’s just a futile exercise to get your civic ideals noticed. In modern politics’ zero sum outcomes, the losers’ ideals end up imprisoned like a rare tiger whose ghostly growls haunt the halls of Congress, City Hall or the State House until the next cycle.

As for election winners, their trophy is getting to pass their agenda, collect adulation – and cash, lots of cash – from their supporters, all to gear up, draft the players, er, candidates, and set the rules to make it easier for them to win again next time. It is the constant weight in the crown they clumsily balance on their heads.

To that end, they discount the folks who refused to support them last time around and shake every tree of stalwarts who have planted themselves as a bulwark around the castle, to ready them for an onslaught – literally, in this election, by the fictional threat of the refugee “caravan.” They must do that, of course, because they are insecure about their ability to hold the crown. Their king and their agenda have alienated more voters than they have inured.

Insecurity begets desperation, and desperation produces lies, or as the media calls them “false statements.”

“In 649 days, President Trump has made 6,420 false or misleading claims,” screamed a recent headline in the Washington Post, Fact Checker column. That’s almost ten a day since taking office, including, according to the Post, thirty a day last month alone.

Ten lies a day is a diet that chokes the truth out of social discourse. It gags well considered facts and obscures positive calls to action with dark, noxious clouds. Worse, the fog permeates every race in every district in the country, where they are forced to echo Trump’s obfuscations.

Republican Brian Kemp, the Georgia Secretary of State running against Democrat Stacey Abrams for governor, pulled out of the final debate with his rival after Trump announced a campaign stop on the same day, and then issued a statement blaming Abrams for the cancellation.

And of course there is insistence from GOP candidates for Congress and governorships that they will protect coverage for preexisting conditions, after their party voted 70 times to repeal the law that makes insurance companies cover you for such illnesses at a relatively reasonable price.

Does it persist because the liars are immoral, unprincipled, uncaring, compromised politicians, or do the lies go on because the people who hear them don’t care, as long as it makes them more comfortable with their preconceptions, their ill-informed view of reality?

It should be noted that the media is less inclined to call them all outright lies than the kinder, gentler, “false or misleading statements,” because they know that Trump is prone to make proclamations about things he really doesn’t understand, for effect. Making shit up isn’t necessarily a lie. It’s just Trump being Trump. This did not start after the escalator ride in 2015, or in 2011 with the ridiculous, anti-Obama “birther” conspiracy. He has always done this. It is likely he has done it so much of his life, that he does not even realize he is doing it.

“I do try, and I always want to tell the truth,” the president told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, the other day. “When I can, I tell the truth. I mean sometimes it turns out to be where something happens that’s different, or there’s a change. But I always like to be truthful.”

Yes, “there’s a change,” like the truth leaks out.

President Trump cites meaningless and unsubstantiated facts and figures all the time to keep his base excited and reporters scrambling to expose the truth. This election, especially the last few weeks, has become more about chasing his lies than the advantage in electing the more apparently responsible party to the House and Senate. Trump’s fine with that. After all, that means the news is all about him, everyday. I wonder what he would do if it were not? I would sure like to find out what it’s like not to gravitate every news cycle to what Vladimir Putin called, the “shiny object.” You know, the phrase Trump decided was supposed to mean “brilliant.” Of course.

Please vote. It may be more dull than chasing Trump’s neon ego, but the truth is, politics was never meant to be an over-produced reality show.

-PBG

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